Eddy Merckx is a name that evokes road racing greatness, but what many people often overlook is that Merckx has a long and storied history in cyclocross racing.
Whether it be with Zdnek Stybar in the World Champion stripes aboard an Eddy Merckx, under Ben Berden for his Koksidje World Cup win or with their 2016 launch of new cyclocross race and do-it-all gravel bikes, Merckx’s dedication to cyclocross runs deep.
While at the Wheelers and Dealers Race at CrossVegas, this vintage Eddy Merckx Titane singlespeed caught our eye. What appeared to be a singlespeed frankenbike turned out to be a former Belgian pro’s bike with a neat story behind it.
The frame is a 1991 Eddy Merckx Titane, which was Merckx’s titanium race offering—with no bottle mounts, or fender eyelets, the Titante’s purpose as a dyed-in-the-wool race machine is apparent. Josh Harder from Vancouver, Canada collects Merckx frames, and spotted this one on a Belgian website. Harder bought just the frame, but found a similar vintage steel cyclocross fork that just happened to match the frame's color.
While the paint features all the artistic flourish of the era, there are two names on the bike that won’t be recognizable by all but the most dedicated of Merckx collector.
The Karel Mintjens text on the downtube allegedly refers to the brother of Merckx's teammate Frans Mintjens—a furniture maker and sponsor of a cycling team, who provided team bikes that featured his name front and center. The racer who was originally issued this bike, Peter Willemsen, was a late-90s Belgian pro, and leaves his mark on the bike with a painted-on name decal on the top tube.
The frame itself is true old school ’cross. It's a 55x55cm square geometry (seat tube by top tube), which is quite short by today's standards. It's also got a really high bottom bracket, according to Harder. The horizontal dropouts made it easy to build up the Titane frame as a singlespeed.
Building up the bike as a singlespeed, there were less period-correct components for Harder to collect, and some are certainly more modern. Harder used a half-link BMX chain, the new Look S-Track pedals and the high-volume 35mm Ritchey Shield clincher tires. Wide cyclocross tires were not widely available in this era, and the gravel bike craze had not started, so clearances are tight on the Titane.
In spite of a few new additions to the bike, the Shimano Dura-Ace 7400 crankset, Campagnolo Record seatpost, suede Selle Italia Turbo saddle and Deda quill stem and deep drop bars all exude a timeless quality to them, looking sleek even to this day. The Campy wide profile cantilevers certainly add a nice, rare Euro touch.
Harder piloted the bike in the Wheelers and Dealers race at CrossVegas, with his goal to "not get last."
Use the arrows to take a closer look at this Eddy Merckx Titane cyclocross bike, and see some of the best features of a pro’s ’cross bike of yesteryear.